LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
No. 2 Mustangs, No. 6 Lynx take center stage tonight in battle of 3A District 2 unbeatens
WEBSTER CITY — They’re big, they’re fast and they’re downright scary.
In a nutshell, that’s how Webster City head football coach Bob Howard described his team’s next opponent.
But it’s not like the Lynx are exactly chopped liver.
The top spot in Class 3A District 2 will be on the line this evening when sixth-ranked WCHS (5-0, 3-0) travels to Grimes to take on second-ranked and fellow unbeaten Dallas Center-Grimes (5-0, 3-0) at 7:30 p.m.
These are the games that bring out the fans in droves. Television cameras are sure to be in attendance, too. In fact, the showdown will be streamed on the Iowa Sports LIVE YouTube channel and will also be rebroadcast on Mediacom Channel 22 Saturday evening.
In other words, get your popcorn early. This should be fun.
DC-G will step onto its home field as the predominant favorite — BC Moore says the Mustangs should win by 19 points — and with good reason. It ended three-time defending state champion Pella’s 42-game winning streak back in Week 2, 10-7, and has rolled up four blowouts.
WCHS doesn’t mind being the underdog though. It lived in that role all the way to the state championship game a season ago.
“I’m sure (the players) know everybody is going to pick DC-G and I hope that puts a little chip on their shoulders,” Howard said. “(The Mustangs) are very good. They’ve got a lot of returning players and they all play one way, and that’s a big deal.”
Roster size — DC-G will have 71 players on its sideline to just 49 for WCHS — is just one area of concern for Howard. Figuring out a way to sustain drives and put points on the scoreboard against one of the state’s premier defensive units will be the biggest test of all.
“They get ahead on offense and when that happens, they get the other team having to throw and that’s exactly what they want,” Howard said.
In five games, DC-G has allowed a total — repeat, a total — of 121 yards rushing and just 522 yards of total offense. Led by Division I recruit and junior defensive tackle Cody Lemon, the Mustangs allow just 6.6 points per game, the third-best total in the class.
Ah, but here’s the rub: DC-G hasn’t faced an offense as potent as the one WCHS possesses.
The Lynx will take the field with the third-rated offense in terms of total yards (2,230) and the No. 2 rushing offense (1,836 yards) in the class. Howard’s single-wing system generates 367.2 ground yards per night and senior tailback Zane Williams sits at the top of the individual 3A leaderboard with 1,113 yards.
DC-G allows one yard per carry. Behind an offensive line that can be dominant, led by all-state guard Cooper Lawson, Williams alone averages nine yards per carry.
Something has to give.
“Hopefully we’re the best offensive team they’ve played, at least offensive line,” Howard said. “If we execute, we’ve got some things that they haven’t seen. But talk’s cheap. We can’t have the ball on the ground every fifth or sixth snap and we can’t blow plays. If you do that, then you’re right into the jaws of the beast with them.”
WCHS would love nothing more than to run right at the Mustangs 60 times, but is that realistic? Probably not, which is where spinback Dylan Steen enters the picture. In addition to his 499 yards rushing, the 15th-best total in 3A, he’s also thrown for 375 yards and six touchdowns against just one interception.
Howard has no problem throwing the ball on his terms. But if it’s on DC-G’s terms, there will be trouble.
“Trying to stay even with or ahead of the chains is a really big deal,” he said. “Because third-and-8 is a death sentence with them. If we can throw on first or second down when we want to with some play-action stuff, that’s where we want to be. If it’s third-and-long and they know you’re going to go back and pass, that’s when they send everybody.”
WCHS had three backs go over 100 yards rushing in last season’s 31-10 victory over the Mustangs. A key component of that win was wingback Payton Kannuan, who gutted DC-G for 155 yards. That Lynx will need to have all three of its ball carriers engaged once again, Howard says.
“(The wingback position) is important,” he said. “If they’re going to outnumber us on the strong side, you’ve got to be able to do something on the back side. Hopefully that’s one of the things we can try to do.”
Trace Kepler and Drake Doolittle have shared time at wingback this season.
Howard knows his team will need to keep it close and some of that onus will fall on the Lynx defense that has been inconsistent at times this season. They’ll try to tame a DC-G offense that is led by quarterback Damon Clapper, who has accounted for 928 yards of offense — 612 through the air and 316 on the ground. Tailback Tanner Epple (316 yards) will also have Howard’s attention.
“They make plays,” Howard said. “Clapper is a playmaker and they’ve got a good, hard-running tailback. They execute pretty well and they don’t make a lot of mistakes.”